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Labour retains control of the council

Labour have just clung on to control of Oldham council after a heated afternoon in the council chambers (May 22).

The gathering saw a bid for leadership by a ‘rainbow alliance’ made up of Oldham’s Lib Dem, Conservative and Oldham Group councillors. 

The alliance fell just short of the number of votes needed to take over the council, with 28 for their amendment to remove council leader Arooj Shah, 29 against and three abstentions. 

The re-elected council leader Arooj Shah thanked the councillors and called for a ‘change’ in the way politics is done in Oldham. 

Coun Shah told the LDRS: “I’m absolutely delighted. The right decision was made today. People recognised that we’ve delivered in the past and we will continue to do so. But we also need to stop and listen. 

“I see this as an exciting opportunity to create more consensus politics. All our elected members will have to work a lot more cooperatively and collaboratively.” 

The results were greeted by loud remonstration by a number of council members and the public gallery. Oldham Group leader Kamran Ghafoor called the outcome ‘an absolute travesty’.

He said: “The people of Oldham didn’t want the Labour Party to be in administration. It’s a shame that when the mandate was given to some independents, that they could not utilise it and get rid of this toxic administration – the most divisive in recent history.” 

Lib Dem leader Howard Sykes, who would have led the alliance administration if they had been voted in, was ‘disappointed’ but said ‘that’s democracy’. 

Decisive to sway the vote in favour of the Labour minority administration was councillor Marc Hince and Lisa Navesey from the Shaw and Crompton independents. As part of negotiations, Labour have promised an independent review into historic child sexual abuse in the borough as well as additional funding for Shaw and Crompton. 

Coun Marc Hince said he looked forward to a new Labour cabinet that was ‘held accountable by true independents’. 

He told the LDRS: “The winners of the election were the independents. But I think there was a blinkered perception that the thing that had to happen was removing Labour. 

“This patched up coalition which was put together in a week, I just could not bring myself to unleash that onto the community.”

The agreement with Labour will leave the independents free to vote how they feel with the exception of No Confidence Votes and the budget. While this appears to secure Labour’s position going forward, they are still at risk of being outvoted at council meetings. 

Labour remain the largest group in the council with 27 members, with the Lib Dems holding nine seats, the Conservatives eight and 16 independents. 

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